In my previous article, we examined some Scriptures which show that when someone has made a genuine commitment to follow Christ and to make him Lord, then his life will exhibit the qualities of true repentance. Now we will study the example of the believers in Thessalonica because they illustrate well the transformation that comes when repentance is genuine.
The Apostle Paul visited Thessalonica preaching Christ, and many responded.
Acts 17: 1-4
“Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them fromthe Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.“
The Apostle Paul was in Thessalonica to get people to give up idols. He preached repentance and conversion to God and instructed them to practice works worthy of repentance.
Paul's letter addressed to the believers in Thessalonica shows us how they made the decision to give up their old way of life, and their works reflected this great change in their lives to the point where they became models for believers in other churches.
“for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”
The believers of this church experienced a real change in their lives. They abandoned their idols and began to serve the living and true God. This change did not go unnoticed – it was observed by others. That is why verse 9 says, “For they themselves report. how you turned to God from idols...." People talked about this change because they saw visible evidence in this church which attested to a genuine repentance. Similarly, if we truly repent of our misconduct, people around us will witness it.
Today, people are faced with hidden idols in their hearts as noted in Ezekiel 14:3. “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity.”
The idols of the heart can include beliefs, traditions, customs, lifestyles, systems of thought, and passions that people are more committed to than they are to obeying and serving the living God.
Here are some examples of how the Thessalonian believers exhibited their transformation:
2Thessalonians 1:3 “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;”
The love that they had for each other grew increasingly. Likewise, we should show compassion and mercy toward others in our lives every day – not simply to love with words but with actions,
obeying the truth.
“For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”
This verse shows us how these believers have received the Word of God with great sincerity. The power of the Word of God was at work in their lives and in the church because they were obedient to it. Genuine faith always
“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;”
This Scripture tells us that the Word of the Lord was glorified and the good news spread quickly in this church. This happened because they shared it with others - they took the action of preaching.
A heart that is not touched by the Word of God cannot touch others. One reason that puts the brakes on the expansion of the Word of God in our communities is the lack of a transformed life. In the Congo, we have a saying, “Where there is honey, there will always be bees.” If we have honey in our lives and in our actions, people will naturally be drawn to us. they will notice the shining splendor of the gospel of the glory of Christ.
Paul was confident that the Thessalonian believers would heed his exhortation to walk in purity and sincerity before God.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.”
When the believers in Thessalonica were converted, their passion was to preach the good news of God's Kingdom. They exhibited a fervent love for each other, and their faith grew accordingly which was reflected by their good works.
Without genuine repentance in our hearts, there will be no real and effective preaching. We cannot claim to have a changed life without also exhibiting the actions that show who we really are as Christ’s followers. We must continue to seek the supreme interests of God
and His Kingdom.
We are the fruit of our thoughts. Those things that we have learned, seen, and heard through the Word of God can become real, visible actions in our day-to-day lives, and they will certify that our repentance is real and authentic.
God bless you!